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Saturday, Oct 2, 2010County: Rensselaer
Alleged: Robert Clow
Late last month, Robert Clow shot and killed Daisy, a dog belonging to his girlfriend Laura Vadney and the decision by District Attorney Richard McNally to charge him with three misdemeanors rather than a felony has an animals' rights group up in arms.
"The fact pattern clearly falls under Buster's Law," said Valerie Lang, of the Rensselaer County Animal Protection Coalition. "It's textbook."
According to Lang, Daisy was a docile dog made more so by medication she was on to treat Addison's Disease, an affliction of the adrenal gland, and because of that the argument by Clow the dog was vicious doesn't hold water. She did say that Daisy was scared of Clow and would often urinate when he was in her presence.
She said Clow tied the dog to a tree in the back of Vadney's Brunswick home and shot it three times with a .44 caliber Magnum.
However, McNally said the crime does not rise to the level of Buster's Law -- passed by the state Legislature in 1999 making certain instances of animal abuse a felony -- but it is a serious crime, with "aggravators" and Clow will likely see some jail time as well as a period on probation that will likely include a psychological evaluation and possible treatment.
"Buster's Law is defined as conduct 'intended to cause extreme physical pain or is done or carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner' and this case does not meet that criteria," McNally said. "That said, we are taking a hard line on the case. It's not a run of the mill animal cruelty accusation and we hold him responsible and will mandate a pretty tough disposition."
He compared Buster's Law to the instruction jurors get before deliberating murder and said: "I don't think the Legislature intended to make the standards of depravity and extreme physical pain less for an animal than it does for people."
The jury instruction he is referring to reads in part: "A defendant is guilty of Murder in the First Degree when, with intent to cause the death of another person, the defendant causes the death of such person … and the defendant acted in an especially cruel and wanton manner pursuant to a course of conduct intended to inflict and inflicting torture upon the victim prior to the victim's death."
He added Clow didn't torture the dog, or kill it in front of the children or Vadney. Both examples, he said, would have elevated the crime to a felony. Lang said he routinely beat the dog with a broom.
While Lang maintains the crime meets the felony standard because it was done to cause his girlfriend pain and suffering -- and the fact he allegedly "bragged" about it to Vadney's 16-year-old son -- McNally said Clow shot the dog because she was either playing with or feeding on the carcass of a cat recently killed by an automobile and that was on Vadney's porch.
Vadney, who was eight months pregnant at the time of the alleged crime, was not available for comment. Lang said she is pushing McNally to bring felony charges against Clow, while McNally said he is happy with the misdemeanors.
Lang said McNally has a conflict of interest because he knows the Clow family and as such should recuse himself from the case. She sent a letter to County Court Judge Andrew Ceresia, who has the authority to appoint a special prosecutor, but as of Friday had not gotten a response. McNally said there is no conflict and will not voluntarily step aside.
Clow is slated to appear in Grafton Town Court on Tuesday. It is unclear if he has an attorney and he could not be reached for comment.
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